Devout Durga Maharaj

Swami Umeshanandaji Maharaj
Swami Umeshanandaji Maharaj

The day of 7th may reminds me of the departure from this world, a devout venerable monk of our Order, Swami Umeshanandaji Maharaj. During my 12 year-stay at the Ranchi Sanatorium centre, I had the privilege of having his wonderful company for a little more than 11 years. Holy men come in different hues and Umeshanandaji was unique in his own way.

Smiling always, bringing cheers to every heavy-hearted soul, Swami Umeshanandaji dedicated his life for the service of TB patients since 1962. He was popularly called Durga Maharaj. He was born in a place near Mangalore of Karnataka State on 20th February 1923.

He left Indian Army service and joined the Ramakrishna Mission, Belur Math. He was given mantra diksha by the sixth President of the Ramakrishna Order, Srimat Swami Virajanandaji Maharaj. Later in 1959 he was initiated into Sannyasa by the seventh President Srimat Swami Shankaranandaji Maharaj.

It is said that Swami Shaswatanandaji Maharaj, the then Assistant Secretary of Belur Math told Durga Maharaj in 1962 “to go to Ranchi and serve the poor tribals and suffering TB patients and die there in harness”. During his long forty-four years of extraordinary service, Durga Maharaj never went outside. He was fully engrossed in the patient matters like admission of patients, preparation of patient files, making ready discharge certificates etc. He knew every patient by his name and address.

Straight forward and simple, Durga Maharaj was indeed highly popular among the local Adivasi (tribal) public. No one would forget to meet this smiling Swami and make pranams to him. His admirers are now spread all over the country who would feel blessed to take his name in the very morning.

The mortal coil of Swami Umeshanandaji Maharaj readied on the pyre
The mortal coil of Swami Umeshanandaji Maharaj readied on the pyre

He was 84 when he breathed his last, after suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease with old age ailments for a few months. Swami Satyeshananda, the ‘doctor maharaj’ informed me of the final end and we, all the monks, devotees, staff and others immediately rushed to his room. His mortal coil was consigned to flames the next day at 9 in the morning. The final rites were performed at “Panchavati” within the Sanatorium campus. On this solemn occasion, Sannyasins and Brahmacharins of Morabadi Ashrama and Sanatorium, Swamijis of Tupudana Advait Swarup Ashram, devotees from Ranchi and local adivasi admirers along with employees of the Sanatorium were present in good number.

As per our monastic tradition, on the 13th day of death, a ‘special worship’ of Sri Ramakrishna is done in the temple and a ‘saadhu bhandaaraa’ would form a special feature. And on that day i.e., Friday, 19th May, prasad feeding to all in-patients, employees and devotees was arranged at Sanatorium Ashrama premises in honour of the departed soul. A Smritisabha (memorial meeting) was also conducted preceding the Bhandara. That Sadhus from Bihar and Jharkhand branch centres of Ramakrishna Mission and also of the other outside organisations with a huge number of devotees attended the Bhandara was a memorable experience.

During my Address in the Memorial Meeting, I narrated how wonderful the Life of this monk was and we always rejoice when a monk leaves his body and do not weep over his passing away. As Tulasidas says in his Hanuman chalisa “antakaala raghuvarapura jaayi, jahaan janma hari bhakta kahaayi” (after death he enters the eternal abode of Sri Rama and remains a devotee of Him, whenever, taking a new birth on earth), we also believe that Durga Maharaj has gone to the Ramakrishnapura, the eternal abode of Sri Ramakrishna.

It was on the birthday of his Guru, Swami Virajanandaji Maharaj,(he was a disciple of Holy Mother; a historic audio recording of his Voice is available here) in the last year, I had to deliver a Talk here in South Africa to the devotees of Durban Central Satsang group. My mind naturally, while talking about the Founder of South African Centre Swami Nischalananda, who was also a disciple of Swami Virajanandaji – reverted towards this devout Durga maharaj  and spoke at length my ennobling association with him.

Knowing that Durga Maharaj, in his pre-monastic life, was a Muslim, I naturally could not contain my curiosity and enquired how, he could join this Hindu Order of Monks. He would, always in an forthright manner, say in his loud, sterling voice that it was all due to his Guru’s grace. He had unshakable faith in the Master’s presence. His forthright walking with a shoulderbag consisting of Office keys and in left hand, a lantern became an icon to all patients. One could feel the stillness of the soul when he would sit on the bench outside the parlour room and bless whoever came and touched his feet in obeisance, those unforgettable words of blessings “jeete raho” (may you live long!).

There was never a curse, nor an indignant expression but there was always that charming childlike simplicity with overwhelming concern and affection. Unknown to the outer world, such holy men go finally unsung but unknowingly, many a heart is filled, unseen and unheard, with the fragrance of unbounded love.  

Well, the impression that he created in my mind is well imprinted and I pay homage to this great monk.

18 comments

  1. Revered Maharaj ji
    Om Namo Narayanaya!
    The very picture of Revered Swami Umeshanandaji Maharaj reveals a divine glow radiating from his serene and joyful face! Clearly Maharaji’s motto ‘Jiva is Shiva’ and ‘Shiva is Jiva’ comes shining through brilliantly! The moments that Revered Swami Vimokshanandaji Maharaj spent with such a loving and evolved soul must have been filled with divine joy! Thanks Maharaj for sharing this wonderful experience!
    Avitha
    Pietermaritzburg, SA

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    1. Yes, Avitha ! Indeed the moments with this great Swami were always spent in joy. Though a strict disciplinarian in his personal and organisational life, he was all mellow when it comes to children. His famous blessings to them are: Jeete raho! Khaate raho! doodh, ghee, madhu peete raho! – live longer! Stay eating! Continue drink milk, ghee (clarified butter) and honey!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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      1. Revered Maharaji

        Om Namo Narayanaya!

        Is it possible for Revered Maharaji to share some of the wonderful moments spent with the Great Swami please?

        With humble pranam
        Avitha
        PMB, SA

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      2. Dear Avitha
        Revered Durga Maharaj once told me how his mother in his childhood days would tell the story of Rabia, the saint of Iraq who practised ‘bridal mysticism’ with the Almighty. This story made him see that ‘to Love God alone is the purpose of life’ and nothing else could come ‘between me and God’. He would ask me to repeat Rabia’s story of praying to Allah and when I would narrate with all emotion of her slavery days and how she was freed from it through the grace of God, Durga maharaj would be simply shedding tears. The whole atmosphere would become pregnant with joyous vibrations. I have seen him getting overwhelmed and just to bring him back to the normal plane, I would turn the conversation to some other mundane topic. When I think about him, I cannot even proceed to type further as so much emotion swells in my heart. He was verily an example of living for loving God.
        Swami Vimokshananda

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  2. May we all receive more and more light from such great monks and dispel the darkness of ignorance, moving closer and closer ever to the abode of the Lord Sri Ramakrishna.

    Mohan
    Hyderabad, India

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    1. Thanks for your visit Mohan ! Do you have any anecdote with regard to Durga maharaj? Have you seen him before?
      May God bless you!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  3. Adarneeya Maharajji,

    Saadar Pranaam.

    Once again my desire of knowing something more about SUCH GREAT SOULS, is enkindled….. I have always felt that A NEW VERSION OF BOTH THE BOOKS “GOD LIVED WITH THEM” and “THEY LIVED WITH GOD” giving LIFE HISTORIES OF SANNYASINS AND PRAVRAJIKA MATAJIS and HOUSEHOLDER CHILDREN OF HOLY TRIO should be available to us Devotees and future generations….

    Maharajji, atleast you can tell us something more about Rev. Swami Umeshanandaji Maharaj. (I understand that he was born of Muslim Parents??).

    Much gratitude for GIVING US THESE INSPIRING AND MOTIVATING POSTS THROUGH YOUR BLOG.

    Bharat
    Mumbai, India

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    1. Yes, indeed Bharat that many of our devotees are keen to know about ‘what the monks do in their day to day life, how they interact with one another etc.’ Recently I read with interest the book titled Life in Indian Monasteries, well written by Revered Swami Bhaskaranandaji Maharaj of USA. This small book presents ‘different aspects of our monastic life with inspirational anecdotes, numerous photographs of monks, and other details of monastic life, not known to outsiders.’ You may even consider quoting from this valuable book in your Holy Trio Group which will benefit people immensely.
      May the Master’s leela be seen in all its dimensions!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  4. Param Pujaniya… Maharaj
    While reading posting on Srimat Swami Umeshanandaji Maharaj, I remembered another episode which happened many years ago. Swami Vivekananda told Swami Kalyananandaji to go to Kankhal and serve the sick people including the sadhus and remain there. He obeyed this to the letter. My sastanger pranams to him and to the other monks of our Order. They all are examples to us.
    Please keep well, Maharaj
    Hiru Mukherjee
    London, UK

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  5. Dear Swamiji,

    Aum Namo Narayanaya!
    I feel all the poorer for not meeting Revered Durga Maharaj. But Swamiji’s descriptions have given me at least a little taste of what it must have been like keeping some of his holy company.

    Prem Namaste
    Kamal
    Durban, SA

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  6. Pranam Maharaj

    It was nice to know about Durga Maharaj. Indeed human society is blessed with such God-people on earth. We are fortunate to have this information from you. Believe me it has always been my earnest desire to know about the monks, their lives, the way they live and all. You have fulfilled this dream of mine.
    I really feel inspired on reading these articles on Maharaj and their lives, the simplicity they possess and the kindness for human society they harbor. To be honest, I sometimes feel disappointed on seeing the world around me, the complexity, intense competition for which we are all victims without choice. At last, at the end of the day, when I am tired of these things, I find my solace on some pleasant music (specially the Kathamrita songs that I listen all the time these days), reading books on saints and articles that you post.

    As I have mentioned earlier, I have heard about Durga Maharaj from my grand uncle Dr. Ajit Ghosh who is still there in Ranchi Sanatorium. He shared with me about you also. Today, after reading the article I called my Maternal Aunty who was there in Ranchi Sanatorium for almost 21 years. She shared the same information about life of Durga Maharaj. She too told me the same thing – Maharaj’s simplicity, dedication for work and one interesting thing – the boots that Durga Maharaj wore during rainy seasons!

    Thanks once again Maharaj for sharing your feelings and enlightening us. Please do guide us in this spiritual journey. I heard from Bharat Ji that you were not well. My sincere request to you – please take care of your health. We are blessed to have you with us….

    One more request Maharaj – If you write articles other than in your blog on any topics, or any lecture that you deliver there in South Africa Mission, please send a copy to me in my mail. I will be privileged to read the same. If you have the soft copies please do share me.
    Pronam
    Arnab Lahiri
    Bokaro, Jharkhand, India

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  7. Respected Maharaj,

    It gives us all such infallible joy to read the posts about such devout souls who came only and only for upliftment of masses. Maharaj, as you informed that Durga maharaj was born to muslim parentage, I was not shocked but I felt a tinge of sorrow in my heart….We have examples of people who do not care for religion, caste or creed and just commit themselves to betterment of fellowmen, and there is another section of the society which is very happy to submerge their face in the dirty mud of fanaticism and sectarian approach. Why don’t they understand their idiocracy maharaj? when will they learn? I know I do not have the audacity to point at someone like that but I believe the saying of Swamiji, “I worship that God whom the ignorants call human” to its very word and I am proud to stand by it.

    May those sick people get well soon, is my only prayer to my Hriday-ballabh.
    Please take my Pranam.

    Sabuj
    Pune, India

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  8. Respected Maharaj,
    Pranam. I am really very glad to see your blog about our most respected and loved Durga Maharaj.The story of Rabia I didn’t know. I feel myself to be blessed one as we got his company in Ranchi. I want to post a photo of Rev Durga Maharaj in your blog. How can i?
    Alpana
    Ranchi, Jharkhand, India

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    1. Dear Alpana
      Well, no one can post directly any photo into another’s blog. So if you have any nice photo of Rev Durga Maharaj, you may send it by email to me which I would consider to include.
      Yes, whenever I would mention your name to him during our talks, he would immediately correct it by telling not mere Alpana, but Harmonium Alpana as he would remember well of your gift of that musical instrument to our Ashram.
      With prayers
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  9. Pujoniyo Maharaj
    Please accept our most respectful pronam.
    I feel very sorry for not meeting revered Durga Maharaj staying in Jamshedpur. But could know something about the great soul from your blog. Maharaj if possible we want to know more about him and your association with him. Please reply.
    Once again our pronam to your holy feet,
    Amitav Dhar
    Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, India

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  10. Revered Maharaj ji,
    I had met Him in the Ranchi Sanatorium during Jagatdhatri Puja, twice. Though it was many years back, I clearly remember Him. I was surprised to know that He was originally from Muslim parentage.

    Please accept my sincere pranaam.

    Yours in Maa,
    Jayita Lal
    USA

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    1. Yes, Jayita I do remember your visit to our Ranchi Sanatorium for Sri Jagaddhatri Puja. You even had a wonderful experience on the second day of the Puja.
      Revered Durga Maharaj’s parentage did not come in the way of his spiritual journey. He was a devout monk and in the family of our Master, parentage doesn’t matter; everyone is accepted. May Mother bless you!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  11. Revered maharaj,
    It was really surprising to know about Revered Umesh maharaj. I read the book ‘Life in Indian monasteries’. I am collecting anecdotes from all sources.
    We had a great Swami in Kerala – Swami Niswanandaji maharaj. He used to write all the anecdotes in a big book and tell us all stories and jokes.
    He used to advise yena kena prakaarena manah Krishne nivesaya (Mind should be focussed on Krishna by any means)
    Radha
    Kerala, India

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